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Exercise after Baby: Yes, it can be done.

by AthleticoLeave a Comment

Let’s be honest, with a newborn at home, exercising may be the last thing on your mind, but there are many benefits to exercise after pregnancy. Exercise can promote weight loss, improve cardiovascular fitness, improve your energy level and mood, relieve stress, prevent or improve the recovery from baby blues or 4th trimester depression, improve the strength and condition of abdominal muscles, and even give you a much needed break from your little bundle of joy.

When is it safe to start exercising?
It is always best to ask your healthcare provider for specific guidelines on return to exercise as every woman’s body and delivery are different, but for a woman who exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal birth, it is generally safe to begin exercising within several days of delivery. For women who have cesarean sections, extensive vaginal repair, or a complicated birth, the time frame will be significantly longer, usually around 6-8 weeks.

General tips for return to exercise after delivery

  • Make sure to take time to warm up before exercise.
  • Gradually increase the duration and intensity of exercise.
  • Stay well hydrated.
  • Wear a supportive bra.
  • Avoid excessive fatigue.
  • Stop if you feel pain.
  • Stop and contact your physician if you experience bright red vaginal bleeding heavier than a normal period.

What activities should you perform?
For cardiovascular activity, start with something simple such as walking or swimming. Gentle stretching or yoga are beneficial to improve flexibility. In addition a few key exercises to increase core and abdominal strength are as follows:

  • Diaphragmatic breathing: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands resting on your abdomen. As you inhale, your abdomen should expand and your hands should rise. Exhale through your mouth while contracting your abdominal musculature, drawing your belly button towards your spine. Repeat for 5-minute increments several times a day.
  • Abdominal isometrics: Lie on your back with your knees bent. Maintain a neutral spine, meaning do not press your back flat or arch your back. Now draw your belly button towards your spine tightening your abdominal muscles. Hold contraction for 5 to 10 seconds. Repeat 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions.
  • Bridges: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet shoulder width apart. Tighten your stomach by drawing your belly button towards your spine, while maintaining the neutral spine position as described above. Press with your legs, and lift your hips off of the floor. Hold for 5 seconds. Repeat 10 repetitions 2 to 3 sets.
  • Kegal exercises: Tighten the pelvic floor muscles by imagining that you are trying to stop the flow of urine. You should feel the pelvic floor lift. Hold for up to 10 seconds depending on the endurance of the muscles. Repeat 10 repetitions 3 to 6 sets per day. Strengthening the pelvic floor muscles can help prevent the leakage of urine (stress incontinence), heal the perineum, and tighten the vagina.
  • Leg slides: Lie on your back with both knees bent, maintain a neutral spine, and tighten your abdominal muscles by drawing your belly button to your spine. Slide one leg straight and return to the starting position without letting your back arch. Repeat with the opposite leg.

Can you exercise if you are breastfeeding?
You can absolutely exercise if you are breastfeeding. Exercise is not thought to have an effect on the volume of milk production or composition of the milk and has not been shown to affect a nursing infant’s growth. It is thought that high-intensity physical activity can cause an accumulation of lactic acid, which may produce a sour taste for the baby, but this can be minimized by sticking to moderate intensity of exercise, staying well hydrated, and feeding the baby just before exercising.

Make sure to listen to your body, and if you have pain or if your vaginal bleeding increases with exercise, contact your physician or midwife before continuing to exercise.

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